New Delhi: The then coal secretary, H.C. Gupta, concealed material facts related to allocation of a coal block in Jharkhand’s Rajhara town from the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, who also held the coal portfolio, the CBI told a court here on Friday.
Advancing arguments on the issue of framing of charges, Senior Public Prosecutor V.K. Sharma told Special Judge Bharat Parashar that Gupta concealed facts related to Jharkhand’s Rajhara North coal block allocation, involving Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd. (VISUL), Manmohan Singh.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has alleged that Gupta, along with former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and others, conspired to favour VISUL in the allocation of the coal block.
Sharma told the court that the state government had recommended two other companies for Rajhara North coal mines but not VISUL.
This fact was not highlighted in the file noting sent by Gupta to Manmohan Singh, he added.
Even the steel ministry had not recommended the name of VISUL for the coal block, the senior public prosecutor apprised the court.
Initially, the state government had not recommended VISUL, but later former Jharkhand coal secretary A.K. Basu insisted on the firm’s name at a meeting of the screening committee.
In his defence, Gupta maintained before the court that VISUL was eligible for allocation of the coal block. On Wednesday, Gupta said that the final decision on the block allocation was taken by the then coal minister Manmohan Singh.
The court posted the matter for June 30 for clarifications.
Others accused in the case include VISUL director Vaibhav Tulsyan, chartered accountant Navin Kumar Tulsyan, government officials Basant Kumar Bhatacharya and Bipin Bihari Singh, and alleged middleman Vijay Joshi.
They have been charge-sheeted for cheating and criminal conspiracy under Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has uncovered large-scale irregularities in the ownership pattern, financial resources and technical ability of five companies granted mining licences for offshore blocks bearing rare and atomic minerals.
The companies, while applying for mining licence in June 2010, had a common director, the Central government has told the Supreme Court.
The Centre has argued that the five companies were registered after the government called private parties for mining licences in June 2010, says a CBI document.
At that time, the government was unaware that these minerals had strategic and defence value.
The administering authority of these licences did not obtain mandatory clearances from various ministries, especially the Home Ministry, according to the CBI.
The Delhi High Court, in an order dated April 25, directed the Centre to execute the exploration licence of the companies as per the procedure within four weeks from the date of receipt of the order.
The verdict came even after the Centre, in an affidavit dated April 16, told the Delhi High Court that it had taken a policy decision not to auction or re-grant the offshore blocks, bearing atomic minerals, to private parties.
Moving the Supreme Court against the High Court ruling, the Centre accused the companies of not submitting the proper supporting documents on the basis of which the marking was done in the evaluation sheet.
The companies were charged with not providing any document indicating the sanctioned line of credit from any financial institution or bank.
One of the companies approached a leading financial services company seeking finance to carry out mining.
“This document was accepted as a document in support of the financial capability of the applicant company. Accordingly, a MoU was signed on September 23, 2010, which was received by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in October 2010, after the date of submission of application for grant of licences on September 14, 2010,” said an internal CBI document.
Therefore, the Centre believed that the company had not confirmed the sanctioned credit limit as per the revised guidelines.
“The above MoU was valid only till March 31, 2011. Thus, on the date of issue of grant order by IBM on April 5, 2011, the MoU was null and void,” said the document.
According to information from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), the authorised share capital of this company and its sister concerns was Rs 25 lakh each whereas the paid up share capital of each of the companies was Rs 1 lakh.
The net worth was negative for each company during fiscal 2016-17. The companies, even as of now, are not financially capable of undertaking any activities or business operations, said the document.
The companies stated that they were sister companies of 12 other companies engaged in different business sectors.
“The worth of the companies and their directors are more than Rs 300 crore. If the exploration licence is granted to the applicant companies, expenses up to Rs 50 crore can be spent easily and can be further increased up to Rs 100 crore, if required,” says a petition in the Supreme Court.
“However, this is not acceptable since the company has been incorporated as Limited Liability Company and therefore the financial commitments by the sister companies had no relevance in the absence of resolution passed by the Board of Directors of the sister companies,” it added.
Despite the inadequate documents in support of their financial strength, the companies got 25 marks by the screening committee which shortlisted applications for mining licence.
“These private companies failed to produce satisfactory documentation for the requisite technical ability and financial resources to undertake exploration operation”, said an officer familiar with the investigation.
The CBI has charge-sheeted the government officials who in November 2017 signed in haste two licence deeds with one of the companies without following the due process.
The CBI, which has started preliminary enquiry after a gap of six years following a go-ahead from the apex court, favours a full-fledged investigation against everyone linked to the grant of licences. (IANS)